Creatine

Creatine is one of the most popular supplements among athletes and bodybuilders, and for good reason. Unlike many of the more dubious options, it has solid scientific backing for its multiple benefits in performance and recovery. That doesn’t mean every person should take it all the time, but it’s certainly a serious contender.

Let’s start with the basics, just in case you haven’t encountered one of the other millions of creatine articles out there. Creatine is a chemical compound found naturally in the human body, where it plays various roles including helping ATP supply your cells with energy. It also boosts your strength and power when you exercise, and it may even have cognitive benefits.

In terms of recovery, creatine may also contribute to a quicker and more effective recovery time (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34199588/). There have been lots of studies into the relationship between creatine and recovery (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34472118/). As tends to be the case with scientific studies, the quality of the research is mixed, but the general trend points to creatine being good.   

We might think of exercise as something that improves our muscles, but first it has to damage them. It’s the healing and repair that helps them grow bigger and stronger. Unfortunately, this means that the process involves a certain amount of soreness and discomfort, what’s known as exercise-induced muscle damage. This can make us feel weaker for a while, impeding our overall performance. Delayed onset muscle soreness takes place a day or two after your workout, which can be extra annoying if you’re planning for your next session.

It seems that creatine can assist with your immediate recovery after intermittent, high-intensity exercise. This makes sense. Creatine helps power up your muscles, strengthening them and improving how they function. This is especially important after exercise, when they’re damaged and can particularly benefit from any kind of boost to their functionality. For delayed onset muscle soreness or after more long-term endurance training, creatine may not be as effective, perhaps because of the biological mechanisms involved.

The effects of creatine are very complex, which is why we’re still researching how to make the most of its undoubtedly useful role in the body. This includes figuring out exactly how it benefits our recovery processes so we can spend less time aching and more time building up to the next performance level.

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